Journal: USG, IC, and Especially CT in a Shambles

Chuck Spinney
Report Card

January 7, 2010


CounterTerrorism in Shambles


On January 5, a blogger with the PBS’ NewsHour asked former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to respond to three questions regarding recent events involving the CIA, FBI, and the intelligence community in general

Two other old intelligence hands were asked the identical questions, queries that are typical of what radio/TV and blogger interviewers usually think to be the right ones.  So there is merit in trying to answer them directly, such as they are, and then broadening the response to address some of the core problems confronting U.S. counter-terror strategies.

After drafting his answers, McGovern asked former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley, a colleague in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to review his responses and add her own comments at the end.  The Q & A is below:

Question #1 – What lapses in the American counter terrorism apparatus made the Christmas Day bombing plot possible?  Is it inevitable that certain plots will succeed?

2 – Has the new intelligence bureaucracy created after the Sept. 11th attacks functioned correctly?  How could it be improved, or was it a good idea to create it?

3 – What one reform would you recommend that might improve information sharing among agencies working to prevent terrorist attacks?

Here's the bottom line:

Hold accountable those responsible.

More “reform” is the last thing we need.  And, sorry, but we DO have to look back.

The most effective step would be to release the CIA Inspector General report on intelligence community performance prior to 9/11.  That investigation was run, and its report was prepared, by an honest Inspector General, it turns out.  (Interestingly, he retired almost a year ago and has not been replaced.)

Actually, the Inspector General report fixed blame and named names.  So it was immediately suppressed by one of those named, then-Acting DCI John McLaughlin—another Tenet-clone.  McLaughin’s successors as Director, Porter Goss, Michael Hayden, and now Leon Panetta followed suit.

Accountability is key.  If there is no accountability, there is total freedom to screw up, and screw up royally, without any thought of possible personal consequences.

Not only is it certain that we will face more terrorist attacks, but the keystone-cops nature of recent intelligence operations …. whether in using cell phones in planning kidnappings in Italy, or in allowing suicide bombers to penetrate CIA bases in Taliban-infested eastern Afghanistan….will continue.

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